Rat god

I spend a lot of time alone in a basement, surrounded by rats. Because of my sacharin nature, I have not been able to keep my foolish heart from becoming attached to my furry little experimental subjects. Some experiments that I conduct require me to sit in silence for long periods of time as I watch my rats explore, freeze, groom, poop, or otherwise ruin my experiment. Naturally, my brilliant mind wanders. Often, it wanders straight into crazy town (see below).

I hate how afraid my rats are of me. Every time I open up their cages to deftly pick them up at the base of their tails and gently place them in whatever experimental apparatus I pre-ordained for them that day, they flail their little feet as if I was doing something horribly torturous. Usually the task my rats are being drama queens about is something fairly benign from my point of view, like placing them into a large round container for 5 minutes while absolutely nothing bad happens to them – I’m just there to observe how much time they spend hugging the edges of the circle versus strutting confidently in the middle (this is a measure of anxiety). Then right back they go to the comfort of their own little homes.

I wish I could explain to them that I come in peace, that I mean them no harm. I wish I could explain to them that the bizarre little rituals I’m putting them through are for a reason. A grand reason that no street rat – whose miserable little existence comprises of  slinking around city dumpsters to forage for food before it gets eaten by a hawk or poisoned by pest control – would ever dream of. These lab rats of mine will never have such a gritty existence because these are no ordinary rats. They have special genetic mutations that cause them to over produce the “bad” form of a protein so that they begin to resemble humans with Alzheimer’s disease as they age. Almost everything about them – how anxious they are, how long it takes them to fall asleep, how well they learn a new task, how quickly they will give up in a challenging task, where and how much pathology is in their brains – could be an important key to helping millions of humans with Alzheimer’s disease. Think about how many humans aren’t even blessed with that sort of distinct purpose.

Another scientist in another lab created this rat strain for such a time as this. We didn’t kidnap their ancestors off the streets to fulfill our evil scientific schemes – these rats would not even exist if not for scientists. And then they came to me. I decide what happens in their lives. Some I randomly assign to be breeders. As such they get to have lots of great sex and raise little families. #toblessedtobestressed But most rats I assign for my experiments. They could be designated to a very short experiment, and the last thing they ever experience will be mild confusion in a weird new box before they join the Big Rat in the Sky. Or, they could be involved in a very long, complicated experiment in which they will be subject to all sort of weird environments, some even mildly aversive or painful, and have a lot of interaction with a large scary mammal who smells like coffee and tacos. Sometimes this large scary mammal seems sinister – most of them remember her taking them into a new, stinky room, losing consciousness, and then waking up with their head screaming in pain. But sometimes this large scary mammal seems compassionate – they also remember her visiting them at home when they had headaches, and giving them yummy food that eased the ache in their heads. This large scary mammal also frequently put them in stressful situations, but never seemed to let anything actually bad happen to them. Until, well… They don’t like to think about why all those cousins never came back that one time.

I am, essentially, Rat god.

I’m much more advanced, capable, powerful than these critters -why do I want to explain myself to them? Why do I care what they think about me? Why do I want to make myself known to them?

Because they’re cute.

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And this has led me to have a thought that’s probably wildly irreverent. One part of the Christian story that never made tons of sense to me was why God would ever choose to reveal himself to us. Why not just let us go about our dumb petty lives and then die, never the wiser? But my stint as Rat god has made me wonder.. What if God decided to work humankind into his plan and reveal himself to us because, well… he thinks we’re cute?

ratgod

 

Just think it over before you immediately dismiss it, that’s all I ask!

 

— Editorial Notes —

Obviously the God-as-kind-scientist metaphor can only go so far, but that’s ok. I’m not trying to design a new religion, so everyone spit out that grapefruit-flavored Topo Chico you just drank!

Nothing in Christianity makes sense except in the light of relationship

Let me begin this post with a profound quote-*

Nothing in Christianity makes sense except in the light of relationship.

-C Gallo, 2019

The relational aspect of Christianity is the overarching story that ties all the aspects of the Christian faith together. If you try to understand any piece of Christianity without it, you will have misguided ideas of how Christian theology should be applied to your own life. Your faith will be stunted.

Maybe this was obvious to every other Christian, but for me it was a game-changer. I don’t want to overstate my own knowledge, but I have a good grasp of Christian theology. I understand the big stuff – the trinity, the fall of mankind, redemption, etc. I even enjoy getting into the weeds of more nuanced theology like eschatology** and predestination. But often, the more I pander to my brain the more my heart checks out. My faith shrivels.

How or why does the relationship aspect of Christianity matter to me?

Relationship gives life to my faith

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Christianity as a religion is boring, oppressive, and constraining. It is often harmful and can be used to exploit people. Christianity as a religion will not help you better yourself (for long). It will not give you warm fuzzies (for long). Christianity in terms of relationship, though…! The wildest but perhaps most important claim of Christianity that we claim to actually know – have a relationship with a spiritual being. THE spiritual being. It isn’t a neat and tidy abstract idea, and it’s not a flawless system of logic. It is [or should be] crazy and scary and exciting.

Relationship affects how I think about oppositions to my faith

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I sometimes encounter people who insist on badgering me about my faith. All of them look triumphant if I don’t have an instant answer to any of their misgivings about Christianity. They express dismay at my lack of open-mindedness and refusal to be in a perpetual mode of discovery. I will tell them something like “I’m not sure how to answer that, but this doesn’t necessitate me abandoning my faith ,” or “I’m really not in a place to effectively research every opposition or issue you’ve brought to my attention.” Some have implicated that they pity me a weak-minded, brain-washed child who won’t (or can’t) contemplate all the mysteries of my faith on a flip of a dime.

If they were challenging the conclusions of my last published research article, they would be perfectly justified in this attitude. Scientists should always be open to new discoveries and be the harshest, most vigilant critics of their own theories and data. But Christianity is more than a theory or data points. It’s a relationship. It grows. It involves experiences that build on each other. At some point, a trust is formed. Those experiences and that trust transforms the way you think about all new data.

For example, I have been dating someone for about a year.*** When we first started dating, if someone had come up and told me “I have good evidence that your new guy is a major flake and you really can’t trust him to do what he says,” I would have taken their words seriously. I would have launched an investigation into whether or not that was true. I would have considered halting all romantic activities until I settled whether or not I could trust him.

Now that we’ve been together for a while, however, it would be crazy for me to take them seriously. I wouldn’t waste time reevaluating every interaction my boyfriend and I had in the past year. I wouldn’t ask for us to take a break while I investigated. I wouldn’t even ask him about it. I simply know that they are wrong. Even if the person who told me that believed strongly in their statement, I would conclude that they misinterpreted his actions in the past. It’s not that I’m brainwashed or in denial of any potential flaws, but we have experiences together. At some point, a trust was formed.  I have seen him in bad moods and good moods, around his parents and around his friends, extremely sleep-deprived and well-rested, very relaxed and under an enormous amount of pressure. During all of this, everything he’s told me he would do- he’s done. Every event he’s told me he would come to- he’s been there. So it’s not that I’m stupid or blind, it’s that we are in a relationship. And the relationship itself has changed how I view any new information or perceptions any one else might have about him.

Just the same, I’m not going to approach all objections to God in a purely objective or abstract way. I can’t. That does not – I repeat, does NOT – make me a brainwashed buffoon.

Relationship affects how you think about being good

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This is probably one of the most misunderstood features of Christianity – the “good deeds” issue. It’s widely recognized that Christians should, in theory at least, be good people. Yet a major tenant of Christianity is that humans are already so deep in the pit of imperfection that no amount of good deeds could ever pull us out of it. So if we can’t earn good standing and we’re putting every single egg we have in the grace basket, what’s the point – why do anything good at all?

Strangely enough, I have found great insight into this issue from the movie The Breakup. In one scene, they’re having a huge fight about how the boyfriend Gary is never doing the good deeds that Brooke asks him to do.

Gary: “Fine, I’ll help you do the damn dishes.”
Brooke: “That’s not what I want. I want you to want to do the dishes.”
Gary: “Why would I want to do dishes?”

Gary would want to do the dishes if he cared more about making Brooke happy than he cared about making himself happy. He should do the good deed because he knows it’s something she cares about and would bring her joy – no more, no less. It’s the exact same thing with good deeds in Christianity. We don’t do good deeds to prove we’re better than other people, or because it comes easily to us, or because we think we’re earning some sort of spiritual brownie points. We do good deeds because we have reason to believe they are important to God and bring him joy – no more, no less.

I don’t think God wants us approach good deeds like, “Fine, I’ll help you do the damn dishes.” I believe he wants us to want to do the dishes.

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— EDITORIAL —

*Phraseology stolen from Theodosius Dozhansky, who thought evolution was the overarching story that tied all of biology together. ( “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light if evolution”). If anyone tried to understand any piece of biology without it, Dozhanksy claimed, they would have misguided hypotheses. Their scientific discovery would be stunted. This post isn’t about evolution, but I have a compulsion to provide the source of my thoughts. My deepest fear is getting caught in a scandal that involves accidental plagiarism. BUT I will say that if you are curious about how the Genesis creation story relates to current scientific thought on human origins, I highly recommend reading The Lost World of Adam and Eve by John H. Walton (amazon link here). It greatly influenced my thoughts on the subject.

**the ONLY reason I dropped the esch bomb was to be a Pretentious Pretentierson.

***No one knows for sure. It is currently a hot topic of debate by many scholars.

30 nuggets of wisdom for 30 years

My 30th birthday is just around the riverbend*, so this Gallowolf would like to cry the wisdom she’s learned to the blue corn moon. Please commit all of these to memory and send me a $30 cashier’s check every time my lil nuggets of wisdom save you from a pickle.** Thank you in advance.

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A-ooooooooooo

Drums, please!

  1.  You don’t have to date everyone who’s a good person
  2.  Be okay with uncertainty in relationships
  3.  Don’t try to engineer and control any relationship, especially romantic
  4. People don’t owe you affection or attention when you do something nice for them
  5.  Talk to your Grandma like a peer and be ridiculous with your nieces and nephews
  6.  Allow yourself to feel your feels
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    All legit, y’all.
  7. Don’t let your feels control you
  8.  You’re responsible for your own feelings, but be aware of how you are prone to feel after spending time with any person
  9. Spend time with people who make you feel good
  10. You can forgive people but still protect yourself from bad characters
  11. Most people are schmucky schmuckersons
  12. Celebrate and hold onto the people that aren’t schmucky schmuckersons
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    Me holding onto someone great
  13. People who bring exciting drama into your life are also likely to bring a bunch of hurt into your life.
  14. Go to the arts for your dramatic fix
  15. Finding things to laugh at is serious business
  16. The expensive car is *not* worth it
  17. Eating more expensive healthy food *is* worth it
  18. Neglecting your health is not financial prudence– it’s a great strategy to make all your borderline acute health issues full blown chronic health issues
  19. Try to find joy in challenges instead of focusing on the stress
  20. Stop feeling sorry for yourself
  21.  You can be mature and intelligent and still wildly silly
  22. It’s not necessary or wise to trust everyone in a Christian community
  23. Allow yourself to dwell on and obsess about how beautiful something is
  24.  Weighted blankets are heavenly

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    Actual image of my mind when under a weighted blanket
  25.  It’s worth the AC cost to turn down the temp enough to not sweat at night
  26.  Allow yourself to consider you are wrong about everything
  27. Don’t let uncertainty paralyze you
  28.  You don’t have to listen to everyone’s advice, even if they’re great people
  29. Try
  30.  God is bigger and more confusing than you ever imagined

cosmic

 

— EDITORIAL NOTES —

*By “just around” I mean in like 2 months. But that’s none of your business!

**Although if a Trader Joe’s kosher dill pickle was after me, I would say “take me now” and swoon at its delicious foot.

Again and again and again

The *very* few times I have made mistakes, people have told me “Well, at least you learned something,” as a sort of consolation. A few of those few times, that sentiment has been comforting. My mistake (e.g. being too open with a friend who used my vulnerabilities to manipulate me) resulted in sparkly fresh knowledge (just because someone shares their deep personal stuff with me doesn’t mean they should be trusted with my own deep personal stuff). GREAT! The wisdom doth overfloweth!

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I think more kids would stay in school if we could see the beauty of our knowledge! 

Most of those few times, that sentiment isn’t comforting at all. Because many times my mistake is to simply not act on what I have already learned. Somehow, the knowledge that I just did something when I already “knew better” isn’t quite as sparkly the second, third, 4,890th time around. The wisdom doth continue to overfloweth until Gallo choketh in a pool of her own stupidity and rebellion.

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Help plz

 

Sometimes I get pissed that despite my sincere prayers for freedom from my loopity-loop of failures, loopity-loop to failure I go. I think “I want to be free of this, and God YOU should want me to be free of this, I’m asking you to let me be free of this – yet WHAT IS THIS I SEE BEFORE ME?!” [wave wildly at my past and current mistakes as they pal around brazenly]

 But what if the repeated mistakes are evidence of God’s mercy?

For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
    and chastises every son whom he receives.                                                                                  -Hebrews 12:6

Imagine if you’re suddenly recruited to play basketball with the Hawks, even though you are entirely unqualified. You get on the court for your first practice. Someone throws you the ball, and you heave it towards the net. The ball flies straight over the backboard.

Then imagine if your coach came up and ripped the basketball out of your hands and said, “You suck at this, go sit down.” He then passes it to the star player, who dunks the ball effortlessly. Basketball has defeated you – your only way of making it through the season is to avoid all contact with basketballs and coddle your feelings of inferiority by yelling obscenities at the other teams from the bench. You’re still on the team no matter what, but you’re not in the game.

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Lameeeeeeeeee

But what if! Your coach watched you struggle during practice and, every time you took an awful shot, picked up the ball and threw it back to you and said, “You suck at this, but I’m going to keep throwing this ball to you until you learn how to aim. I want you to be in the game.” After missing the net for the next 142 shots, you are frustrated and beg him to transfer his expertise and talent directly to you. But he says, “Nope, doesn’t work that way. Try it again. Again. Again!”

 Is the coach being mean in the second scenario? He’s certainly not coddling you… And I guess one perspective would be “I can’t believe he keeps letting me fail over and over.” But is he really? 

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Maybe this is what we want God to be. Just ignore the bears not sure what that is all about lolzzzz

I think sanctification may be something like this. We want a magic coach wizard who will come and wave a wand and automatically make us amazing players. When he doesn’t, we assume he is torturing us, doesn’t actually want us in the game, or may start to doubt if we were really recruited in the first place. But what if our endless failures are the consequence of him giving us endless opportunities to get it right?

Maybe this sports analogy is a little too much cheese for you all, but this analogy has been a real source of encouragement for me. Especially when I find myself in these deja-vus-des-insufficances. Maybe God isn’t being a jerk – maybe he’s offering me the opportunity for mastery. Maybe he knows something about my abilities that I don’t. So he gives me the opportunity to.. vanquish! Again. And again. And Again.

I hope so.. I want to play 😉 

 

No, God did *not* tell that guy He wants y’all to be together

[NOTE: I don’t harbor any ill will or contempt for the persons mentioned in the story below. But if someone has to go through these insane-o experiences, others might as well learn from them!]

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^How Sydney felt (smoochies to Pixabay for the free image)

So my friend* Sydney found herself in a situation a few years back in which (I believe) a well-intentioned but misguided Christian man was convinced that he and Sydney were supposed to be together. And she just wasn’t feelin’ those kinda feels. But then he played the “but I think this is God’s will,” card and Sydney panicked. She tortured the interwebs with search phrases like “does God want you to date someone you’re not attracted to?” or “is it possible that God will tell one person but not the other that he wants you to be together,” etc. etc. (Google be like “showing results for psychiatrists near you “) She grew agitated with God. Praying didn’t seem safe because she was so afraid God would confirm this .. coming together .. that turned her stomach.** It took several of her Christian mentors looking at her incredulously and saying “No! This guy is trying to manipulate you. to keep Sydney from having a major crises of faith. And lo and behold, they were correct. She is single and sassy to this day, y’all! *praise hands*

This wasn’t an isolated event, either – another friend of mine, Kelly, had a similar experience. Another (I believe) well-intentioned but misguided Christian man told her he knew God wanted them to be together AND she should break things off with her fiancé (At least Sydney was single. Geez laweez, Papa Cheese!). Fortunately for everyone, Kelly wasn’t impressed with his claims of divine guidance and held her ground. And lo and behold, now she’s happily married AND the insta-prophet — who was so spiritually arrogant he was willing to basically steal another dude’s betrothed — is now happily engaged to another woman.

So why tell you this? Certainly not to make single Christian men – or Christians generally – look like complete crazies, but to 1) ease the tortured mind of any girls who might be legit confused because someone is using the Holy Spirit to MANIPULATE THEM and 2) to admonish men who have used this this form of spiritual abuse to CHECK THEMSELVES (or if you have brochachos who do, CHECK YOUR BROCHACHOS).

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^This guy totes looks the part of a Blasphemous Bobby. (ty for the free image, pixabay!)

 

Blasphemous Bobbies: if God wants y’all to be together, it will happen. Don’t mistake your shouting hormones with the still, quiet voice of God Almighty. If you think that a girl you’re interested in is not responding to the Cupid nudge of the Holy Spirit, then I would strongly suggest praying that she would hear his voice directly &/or through her spiritual mentors. If it’s divinely ordered, I’m sure He can get the job done without your interference. As Matt Chandler pointed out – taking the Lord’s name in vain is more than saying “Oh my G*d!” but the heart behind the commandment [you shall not take the Lord’s name in vain] is that God will not be co-opted, and you will not use the authority of the Lord to flex power and manipulate and coerce others (12:45 – 13:00). So don’t vainly use God’s name to manipulate some bewildered Christian woman.

Bewildered Betties: although I’m not aware of any biblical precedent for this sort of thing, God is very clear that “[love] does not insist on its own way” (1 Cor 13:4). And if you read the juicy and provocative Song of Songs, it’s pretty clear that the bible celebrates being wildly attracted to your man. So I really, really doubt God will torture you with someone you genuinely find creepy. God is not a bully, and I don’t think he wants you to be with one, either. But neither does the Galloswag want to use the Lord’s name in vain (I mean, God did tell Hosea to marry a whore) so by all means, if you’re in this situation please talk to a lot of mentors. There is wisdom in many counselors (Prov 11:14), but make sure those counselors are legit.

So praise Jesus for fulfilling the Priesthood, Law, AND Prophets so He can communicate it directly to you… and will very likely NOT speak “a word” through Blasphemous Bobby that so conveniently fits his relationship agenda and violates yours.

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Hallelujer!

— EDITORIAL NOTES —

* 😉

**Sydney finally said [through gritted teeth] “I’ll do it if you want me too! But Father if there’s ANY other way, take this cup from me.. !”  And maybe that surrender is why God allowed all of those shenanigans. But the main point is, no one should subject anyone to this sort of soul torture.